Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Letter from Prison

Hey old friend,

I haven’t seen you in a long time. How have you been? I missed you. Do you remember me? Sorry I couldn’t write earlier; they didn’t let me have pencil and paper for a long time.

I don’t know why I’m writing this letter. I guess after twenty years of solitary confinement, I’ve had some time to sort out my thoughts a bit.

You’re probably wondering why I’m locked up here in the first place. They say it’s to protect me from myself. I think it was to protect me from other people. My mental health has degraded since I first came. And now I’m more alone than ever.

Did you come to visit? No one has visited me for twenty years. Did they turn you away at the door, telling you that I could not be around human contact for my own safety? I know a few people visited the other prisoners; they never let me see anyone.

How did I become like this? I’m sick of psychoanalyzing myself; it’s what put me here in the first place. There are enough people trying to pry into my mental processes without my help. But I hoped one of my old friends would know.

Do you remember me? I remember you. I have been playing my life through my head over and over again, like a tape, trying to find out where I went wrong. Remember secondary school? We used to talk and laugh and learn together. I tried to talk to you, but our interests were never the same. We could talk, but not in the way the gamers or anime-lovers did.

So I tried to create my own interest group. Remember TNN? It was my pet project. I poured my very being into that story, tried to make it good, tried to make it worthy of being an interest. But still I was at a loss. There was no relationship between the author and the reader. There was nothing to talk about; nothing to say. And it died out soon after when homework – remember the homework? – swamped it over crushed it into little tiny pieces.

I took on a different approach. I tried to improve myself, tried to do better in my studies. We were both in the same school, same class; it could possibly be another “interest group”. I bettered myself, and in doing so, my way of thinking changed. Even then, my plan backfired. Where I scored exceedingly well you did not, and where I failed you succeeded. Everybody’s different. I realize it now.

Do you remember the P.E. lessons? How they made us run 3km around the school? You were always ahead of me, always in the lead. I knew my stamina was not up to scratch, so I resolved to improve myself in that area as well. If I could have something in common with you, then maybe we’d understand each other.

But in doing so I lost track of the fun. My mind was so focused on the goal that I did not stop to take a laugh now and then. I grew sullen as each failure passed. I withdrew myself; I resented communication; I hid myself. So here I am: locked up in solitary for the rest of my life.

I don’t know what made me write this letter. I think I feel better to see it, to have a tangible record of my feelings, rather than to have it whirl around in my head and knocking another drop of happiness out every time it hits home.

You don’t have to reply to this letter. They might not let it through anyway. I just want you to know that I’m sorry for being who I am.


Uncle Edna
Psychiatric Ward 1E
Singapore Institute of Mental Health

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